Coronavirus: $600m for vulnerable people Professor Mthuli Ncube

Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor

Government has set aside over $600 million to cover one million vulnerable households under a cash transfer programme for the next three months, to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, which has seen Government ordering a 21-day total lockdown to contain its spread.

The Social Welfare Department will use its structures to identify the beneficiaries under the facility.

Treasury has already provided $500 million to fight Covid-19 and is ready to attend to more requests.

Critically, Government has provided a further $50 million to Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) to prepare for Covid-19 and to cater for the health requirements of civil servants who are the majority of the Society’s members.

Additional resources will be provided when required, while productive sectors of the economy will get some tax incentives to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on their operations in particular, and the economy in general.

This was said by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube in a statement yesterday.

“Vulnerable groups in our society are the most exposed under this Covid-19 crisis,” he said. “Accordingly, Treasury has set aside resources to cover one million vulnerable households under a cash transfer programme and payment will commence immediately.

“Treasury will initially be availing an amount of $200 million per month under a cash transfer programme over the next three months and both the amount and duration of payments will be reviewed as necessary. The Social Welfare Department will use its usual mechanisms to identify the beneficiaries.”

The intervention follows the realisation that some people in urban areas survive on vending, which they cannot do at this point given the lockdown.

Prof Ncube said they were engaging the Health Services Board and the Public Service Commission to urgently put in place a comprehensive insurance cover for all Government employees whose nature involves direct interaction with Covid-19 patients, in line with international best practices.

He said to augment resources required to alleviate the impact of Covid-19, they were redirecting capital expenditure allocations under the 2020 National Budget towards health-related expenditures, including water supply and sanitation programmes.

Prof Ncube said they will mobilise more resources, with the bulk required in forex, and they will work with the central bank in mobilising the resources.

In the initial stages, Treasury availed US$2 million for urgent and immediate-health related imports and will continue to mobilise and ring-fence the necessary foreign currency required for additional imports for the short to medium-term.

Government will continue to implement selected priority programmes and projects to sustain the economy, which include roads and dam construction, irrigation and water and sanitation projects.

Further, the 2 percent intermediated money transfer tax (IMTT), which is ring-fenced for social protection and capital development projects, will be channelled towards Covid-19 related mitigatory expenditures.

Prof Ncube said Treasury will ensure that Zimra expedites processes on refunds and requests for extension of the time period within which tax is payable without accruing interest and penalties for companies that shall experience Covid-19 related cash-flow challenges.

To cushion companies, Zimra is working on a programme to expedite processing of VAT refunds from the statutorily prescribed 60 days.

In recognition of the significance of the health sector, Government has availed a number of tax incentives for production and importation of essential drugs and health related capital equipment, as well as other medical supplies.

To enhance preparedness to fight coronavirus and guided by the United Nations Covid-19 Medical Supplies, Treasury has suspended duty and tax on various goods and services related to testing, protection, sterilisation, and other medical consumables.

Zimra will, with immediate effect, allow duty-free importation of the goods, pending gazetting of the necessary legal instrument.

The Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) has been directed to review its procurement regulations with a view of facilitating speedy procurement of essential goods and services necessary to deal Covid-19.

Prof Ncube said Government was engaging and supporting the local industry to identify capacity to locally produce within the shortest possible time, basic food stuffs, and pharmaceuticals and provide services as an import substitution measure.

Government is also ring-fencing resources earmarked for mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure achievement of planned activities.

Treasury has directed the utilisation of the existing National Disasters Accounts to serve the purpose of the Covid-19 crisis.

Critically, Treasury has agreed to unfreezing over 4 000 health sector posts and creation of an additional 200 medical posts with a view of scaling up the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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